Jeramey Jannene

Bucks 2nd Most Valuable NBA Team Following Lasry’s Sale

Lasry selling 25% stake to Browns owner Jimmy Haslam at $3.5 billion team valuation.

By - Feb 27th, 2023 09:19 am
Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry at Fiserv Forum's 2018 ribbon cutting. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry at Fiserv Forum’s 2018 ribbon cutting. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry is selling his share of the team to Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam in a transaction that values the basketball team at $3.5 billion, the second highest value for any NBA team sale.

Lasry, 63, is one of three leading investors in the team. The distressed asset investor has been exploring selling his portion of the team for several months. As part of the deal, partners Wesley EdensJamie Dinan and Michael Fascitelli would maintain their share of the team. The partners purchased the team in 2014 for an effective price of $450 million in 2014 and secured $250 million in public financing to develop Fiserv Forum. The team won the NBA championship in 2021.

Haslam, 68, is the chairman of the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain. He purchased the Cleveland Browns, an NFL team, in 2012 for $1 billion. Haslam, in 2018, purchased the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Haslam, who leads Haslam Sports Group with his wife Dee Haslam, sat courtside at Sunday’s game. He also sat courtside at a December game.

The deal establishes the Milwaukee Bucks as the second most valuable team in the NBA, following only the Phoenix Suns. A $4 billion agreement was reached in December to sell the Suns to Mat Ishbia, with whom Lasry also explored selling the Bucks. Lasry, two sources familiar with the deal confirm, also discussed selling his interest in the team to Edens.

NBA team values have continued to climb in recent years due to the exponential increase in television rights agreements and the global market for the teams. Bidding for new television rights agreements is underway.

On Feb. 10, Urban Milwaukee and several other outlets reported that Lasry and Haslam were in advanced talks on a deal. Eric Nehm and Shams Charania of The Athletic were the first to report the formal agreement Monday.

Lasry, according to Sportico, owns approximately 25% of the Bucks, which would give his share a value of $875 million. The original purchase of the Bucks was for $550 million, but long-time owner Herb Kohl donated $100 million from his sale proceeds to a new arena as part of the deal. Dinan was added as a third primary owner after the initial purchase, but does not alternate as a governor (managing partner) with Edens and Lasry. The owners, according to sources familiar with the structure, used a substantial amount of financing to complete the purchase.

A Morrocan immigrant and longtime New York City resident, Lasry’s net worth was estimated at $1.8 billion by Forbes. He’s been a highly-visible team owner, playing in the NBA’s celebrity game at All-Star Weekend. Lasry also has contributed to Showtime show “Billions,” including a brief appearance in an episode and is friends with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Lasry’s five-year turn as team governor is approaching its end, as is the contract of star forward Khris Middleton. The team faces significant luxury tax payments to retain Middleton, all-star Jrue Holiday and two-time MVP Giannis AntetokounmpoThe payments would likely require the owners to commit millions to make payroll, but they would recover that money during a future sale.

Pilot, founded by Haslam’s father, is the fifth largest privately held company in the country and long held a major stake in Flying J. By the end of 2023, Berkshire Hathaway is to acquire all but 20% of Flying J, leaving the Haslam family as the only other owner. Haslam’s brother Bill Haslam acquired the Nashville Predators professional hockey team in 2022.

Flying J, under Jimmy Haslam’s leadership, paid $85 million in restitution to customers and a $92 million penalty for a rebate scheme that withheld diesel fuel discounts from customers. It entered into a criminal enforcement agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2014. Customers, according to the U.S. Attorney, were defrauded of more than $56 million.

Lasry, who runs private equity firm Avenue Capital Group is a specialist in acquiring distressed assets. He is expected to make future investments in sports teams.

Lasry and Edens have both been supporters of the Democratic Party. Marc’s son Alex Lasry, who owns a home in Milwaukee and has lived in the city since his father purchased the team, ran for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2022. The younger Lasry, who previously worked at the White House under Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, was also a major player in bringing the Democratic National Convention to Milwaukee. The elder Lasry, who lives in New York City, has five children. Each child has an ownership interest in the Bucks, but only Alex lives in Milwaukee.

Jimmy and Dee Haslam are big-dollar Republican donors. Haslam’s college roommate was future U.S. Senator Bob Corker.

Forbes estimates Haslam’s net worth at approximately $4.8 billion. His interest in the Browns is valued at $2.2 billion.

The Browns and Haslam engendered controversy when they signed quarterback DeShaun Watson to a $230 million contract despite his being sued by more than two dozen massage therapists for sexual harassment and sexual assault. Watson has denied wrongdoing and settled 20 of the claims. The quarterback missed the entire 2021 season while on the Houston Texans and was suspended, as part of a settlement between the NFL and the players’ union, for the first 11 games of the 2022 season and fined $5 million. Jimmy and Dee Haslam pledged to donate $1 million towards education to increase awareness of sexual misconduct.

4 thoughts on “Bucks 2nd Most Valuable NBA Team Following Lasry’s Sale”

  1. Polaris says:

    I guess there is some sort of civic pride to be had in the Bucks being the second most valuable team in the NBA, but all these dollar signs and 0’s are dizzying…

  2. mkeumkenews09 says:

    How do we do deals going forward so that taxpayer subsidies are included as part of the total investment for these organizations?

    Clearly the $250MM invested by taxpayers was one third of the value for the team.

    Over $1B should be the taxpayers’ share to sell for a return on “our” investment. There has to be a way for this to be part of any agreement going forward, by every state doing deals with these organizations.

  3. Duane says:

    Cleveland Browns ownership (Jimmy Haslam) now want new stadium to replace the 24 year old FirstEnergy Stadium. The current stadium doesn’t have a roof and was “poorly built” (his words). Wonder how much this billionaire will ask taxpayers to pay to further increase his net worth. These parasites have no shame and we need to quit portraying them as honorable.

  4. Mingus says:

    Lasry will walk away with $650,000,000 windfall from selling shares 236% return in just eight years. Owning professional teams is a vanity hobby of the rich and is most always very profitable. As one other persons mentioned in the comments, he should have paid the taxpayers back for the tax money spent on Fiserv Forum. Plus he is selling it to a family whose company has been found to rampantly cheating customers. Maybe in the future some government entity will just tell their professional sports team to build their own facility and not be parasites on the taxpayers.

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